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Question of the Day: Ruby Keeler


Janet0312
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really.....couldn't sing OR act, danced a bit & had a cute face though :rolleyes:

 

I admit that I do like her despite her limitation.   I guess I'm a sucker for cuteness.    

 

So while she isn't in many movies I'm a fan of I love Footlight Parade with Cagney,  Blondell and Powell and Cagney's and Rudy's dance bit in Shanghai Lil is one of my favorites.      

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Even Ruby admitted years later..." I couldn't sing very well, I couldn't act, and now I know I wasn't the greatest tap dancer in the world. I was all personality and no talent"

 

But she was in the right place at the right time. The film audiences found something appealing in her during the depression, may an innocence that that she projected. Unlike stars like Ginger Rogers who had a sexy quality [ like they said about Ginger and Fred...He gave her class and she gave him sex appeal}, that Ruby didn't give. She was more the kid sister, cute and needing protection.....

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On 3/20/2015 at 4:11 PM, fredbaetz said:

Even Ruby admitted years later..." I couldn't sing very well, I couldn't act, and now I know I wasn't the greatest tap dancer in the world. I was all personality and no talent"

 

But she was in the right place at the right time. The film audiences found something appealing in her during the depression, may an innocence that that she projected. Unlike stars like Ginger Rogers who had a sexy quality [ like they said about Ginger and Fred...He gave her class and she gave him sex appeal}, that Ruby didn't give. She was more the kid sister, cute and needing protection.....

Interesting comment. When I was researching Ann Sothern, I came across a similar quote from her. She claimed that stars in the 30s and 40s were names before they were actors. In other words, it was about the studio build-up, based on charm and favorable publicity.

Another thing happening, especially related to types like Keeler and Sothern, is the fact they came along just as the production code was being put in place. So at that point in time, studios probably needed a higher quota of actors and actresses with wholesome images to make the censors happy. Skill may have been secondary in some of these cases, though with Sothern she would develop considerable talent as a musician, comedienne and dramatic performer.

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Even Ruby admitted years later..." I couldn't sing very well, I couldn't act, and now I know I wasn't the greatest tap dancer in the world. I was all personality and no talent"

 

But she was in the right place at the right time. The film audiences found something appealing in her during the depression, may an innocence that that she projected. Unlike stars like Ginger Rogers who had a sexy quality [ like they said about Ginger and Fred...He gave her class and she gave him sex appeal}, that Ruby didn't give. She was more the kid sister, cute and needing protection.....

 

That's all fine by me, the kind of girl I would have brought home to mom...  A good kind of character for a character actress, especially if she is just being herself.

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I admit that I do like her despite her limitation.   I guess I'm a sucker for cuteness.    

 

So while she isn't in many movies I'm a fan of I love Footlight Parade with Cagney,  Blondell and Powell and Cagney's and Rudy's dance bit in Shanghai Lil is one of my favorites.      

 

I'm not Keeler's biggest fan, but that "Shanghai Lil" number with Cagney may be the greatest movie musical number of all time, even if the tap dancing part is nothing but the cherry on the cake.

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I'm not Keeler's biggest fan, but that "Shanghai Lil" number with Cagney may be the greatest movie musical number of all time, even if the tap dancing part is nothing but the cherry on the cake.

 

WAIT!!! Was this ANDY actually liking a MUSICAL???

 

(...must be happy MLB's opening day is coming up soon...yeah, that's it!)  LOL

 

;)

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Even Ruby admitted years later..." I couldn't sing very well, I couldn't act, and now I know I wasn't the greatest tap dancer in the world. I was all personality and no talent"

 

But she was in the right place at the right time. The film audiences found something appealing in her during the depression, may an innocence that that she projected. Unlike stars like Ginger Rogers who had a sexy quality [ like they said about Ginger and Fred...He gave her class and she gave him sex appeal}, that Ruby didn't give. She was more the kid sister, cute and needing protection.....

 

That's how I always understood her career.  To paraphrase Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain:  "She can't dance, she can't sing, and she can't act, but I like her."  That must be how the public thought of her.  I'm surprised no one so far has mentioned the fact that she was Al Jolson's wife.  That's been cited as an explanation of her career.  While it may explain how she got her start, it can't explain her continuing career, for she had an enduring appeal to the American public.  One or two movie flops, and she would have been out.  But the movies she was in were very successful.  Of course, it helped she was surrounded by a lot of great talent in the form of actors, directors, and Busby Berkely.  And you can notice her acting improving in her later movies.

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Being married to Al Jolson did have major drawbacks. His EGO was as big as the whole outdoors. She has some moderate success on Broadway in musicals and in speakeasies. She appeared in a couple of hit shows and Flo Ziegfeld was after her and wanted to make her a big star, but she dropped out of" Whoopee" with Eddie Cantor to marry Jolson and headed West.

 

Jolson told her that he spoiled her for any other man.I heard stories that he had to have the public believe that he did everything himself. There were stories that song writers would meet him at the train station, hand him a song saying "Al, here's a song you just wrote". I don't know if that true, but it's a good story. I guess she hated him so much that when they did "The Jolson Story" she refused to let them use her name in the film. She said she didn't want her children [she had 4 by her second husband] to know she had been married to him.

 

I know she couldn't hold a candle to dancers like Rogers, Miller and Powell, but I found her to be enjoyable in a innocent and cute way...

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Being married to Al Jolson did have major drawbacks. His EGO was as big as the whole outdoors. She has some moderate success on Broadway in musicals and in speakeasies. She appeared in a couple of hit shows and Flo Ziegfeld was after her and wanted to make her a big star, but she dropped out of" Whoopee" with Eddie Cantor to marry Jolson and headed West.

 

She likely had as much success in movies as she might have had on the stage.  It's certain she was known and admired by more.

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That's how I always understood her career.  To paraphrase Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain:  "She can't dance, she can't sing, and she can't act, but I like her."  That must be how the public thought of her.  I'm surprised no one so far has mentioned the fact that she was Al Jolson's wife.  That's been cited as an explanation of her career.  While it may explain how she got her start, it can't explain her continuing career, for she had an enduring appeal to the American public.  One or two movie flops, and she would have been out.  But the movies she was in were very successful.  Of course, it helped she was surrounded by a lot of great talent in the form of actors, directors, and Busby Berkely.  And you can notice her acting improving in her later movies.

 

Somebody else mentioned Jolson in another thread.  Then I posted this pic of them.

 

 

post-45430-0-14661000-1426534091_thumb.jpg

post-45430-0-14661000-1426534091_thumb.jpg

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That's how I always understood her career. To paraphrase Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain: "She can't dance, she can't sing, and she can't act, but I like her." That must be how the public thought of her. I'm surprised no one so far has mentioned the fact that she was Al Jolson's wife. That's been cited as an explanation of her career. While it may explain how she got her start, it can't explain her continuing career, for she had an enduring appeal to the American public. One or two movie flops, and she would have been out. But the movies she was in were very successful. Of course, it helped she was surrounded by a lot of great talent in the form of actors, directors, and Busby Berkely. And you can notice her acting improving in her later movies.

Another factor that contributed to her popularity was that WB teamed her with their (then) boyish crooner, Dick Powell, in a series of musical comedies. In the 1930s, the musical team of Powell/Keeler rivaled Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers and Jeannette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy.

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     There's something about her I liked even though she wasn't a great actress or singer. However she could tap dance. I remember a discussion of her a few years ago and someone explained that her method of tap dancing was a different form from people like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. It seemed like more of a hard step tap and there was a name for it which I don't remember.

    I also liked her because I never heard any bad stories about her. After her divorce from Jolson she remarried and had (I think) 5 kids and lived a very happy life. When her husband died she was coaxed to come back by none other than Busby Berkely and had a successful comeback in "No No Nanette".

She had never done a stage play before and she was 60 at the time but the audience loved her.

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 I remember a discussion of her a few years ago and someone explained that her method of tap dancing was a different form from people like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. It seemed like more of a hard step tap and there was a name for it which I don't remember.

  

 

Robert Osborne has generously described her style as stomping cockroaches.  Perhaps that's a cruel thing to say.  Don't get me wrong.  I like her, and most of her movies.  Maybe what was the basis of her appeal was, regardless of her abilities, she wasn't a phony, and she communicated a sincere enthusiasm about her performance.

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When her husband died she was coaxed to come back by none other than Busby Berkely and had a successful comeback in "No No Nanette". She had never done a stage play before and she was 60 at the time but the audience loved her.

That's the main point. Audiences loved her. She could have hopped around and fallen down a hundred times, but audiences were going to find her adorable no matter what. And years later, they would still retain the same opinion of her. Perfect example of a performer who captured her audience and charmed them for a long time.

 

People talk about actresses like Clara Bow who had the irrepressible 'it' factor-- but it's ones like Ruby Keeler who really had it.

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...When I was researching Ann Sothern, I came across a similar quote from her. She claimed that stars in the 30s and 40s were names before they were actors. In other words, it was about the studio build-up, based on charm and favorable publicity...

 

 

In Sothern's case, I think it was still modesty. We've watched early and later Sothern and she never looks like she's in over her head in anything.

 

Keeler, on the other hand, had at least an acting problem.  In her only film at RKO, she supposedly became so incensed that Anne Shirley was billed ahead of her that she got out of her contract. Anne's name should have been not only above hers but in double the font size.

 

I still don't get how James Ellison's character fell in love with her instead of Shirley... 

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In Sothern's case, I think it was still modesty. We've watched early and later Sothern and she never looks like she's in over her head in anything.

 

Keeler, on the other hand, had at least an acting problem.  In her only film at RKO, she supposedly became so incensed that Anne Shirley was billed ahead of her that she got out of her contract. Anne's name should have been not only above hers but in double the font size.

 

I still don't get how James Ellison's character fell in love with her instead of Shirley... 

Really like how you described Sothern. Yes, I think she was very modest. And she was able to do anything required of her with panache.

 

Keeler sort of sabotaged herself during the production of MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKENS. After RKO, she appeared in a B musical comedy for Columbia directed by a young Edward Dmytryk, but it did nothing to advance her motion picture career. In fact, it was Ozzie and Harriet Hilliard Nelson who outshone her in SWEETHEART OF THE CAMPUS.

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That's the main point. Audiences loved her. She could have hopped around and fallen down a hundred times, but audiences were going to find her adorable no matter what. And years later, they would still retain the same opinion of her. Perfect example of a performer who captured her audience and charmed them for a long time.

 

People talk about actresses like Clara Bow who had the irrepressible 'it' factor-- but it's ones like Ruby Keeler who really had it.

Well I doubt that whatever Keeler had, that she ever have "it". While Elinor Glyn was vague about defining "it", a key factor was sex appeal, something Keeler did not have. Sure, she was cute and pert, and could dance.a bit, but she didn't last long at.the top, barely over half a decade. Partially it was being married to Jolson, who took her with him when he left Warners; partially it was her primadonna behavior and demands at.RKO (probably encouraged by her primadonna husband); partially it was her own limited talent. The offers quickly dried up, and her popularity was not sufficiently strong to have producers lining up with offers. She did the sensible thing and retired, and after a second marriage, raising her family. It wasn't until some 25 years years later that she was coaxed back.

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Well I doubt that whatever Keeler had, that she ever have "it". While Elinor Glyn was vague about defining "it", a key factor was sex appeal, something Keeler did not have. Sure, she was cute and pert, and could dance.a bit, but she didn't last long at.the top, barely over half a decade. Partially it was being married to Jolson, who took her with him when he left Warners; partially it was her primadonna behavior and demands at.RKO (probably encouraged by her primadonna husband); partially it was her own limited talent. The offers quickly dried up, and her popularity was not sufficiently strong to have producers lining up with offers. She did the sensible thing and retired, and after a second marriage, raising her family. It wasn't until some 25 years years later that she was coaxed back.

 

Well said;    So like in a lot of cases all we have decades later are the movies they are in.    In the case of Keeler,  even with her limited film legacy she will always have the very iconic scene from 42nd Street with that line to her from Warner Baxter.    Many actors with much longer and stellar career are not associated with something so iconic.     

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Well I doubt that whatever Keeler had, that she ever have "it". While Elinor Glyn was vague about defining "it", a key factor was sex appeal, something Keeler did not have. 

You missed the point of what I was saying. My point was that 'it' was usually correlated to vampish-ness, but mainstream audiences defined 'it' more conventionally. And using that definition, Keeler had 'it' all over the place.

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     I don't agree that she sabotaged her career or for that matter, whether she even cared about furthering her career. She was probably very unhappy with Jolson and finally had enough and divorced him. She had some temporary happiness when she and Jolson adopted a baby boy. I believe after her divorce she was looking to find a nice man not connected with the film industry and settle down. And that's exactly what she did. From what I read and heard she had a very happy married life. She had her career and she had a happy blissful marriage and family. So I'm sure she was content.

     Years ago TCM ran a documentary on her and in it her daughter speaks while they show home movies of her with her family. Her daughter mentioned that her mother never mentioned that she was an actress and that none of her brothers or sisters even knew about her film career until many years later.

She never talked about it. The only hint they ever had was when the radio would be on and Ruby would start to dance to the music on the radio (a tap dance). Otherwise, her daughter described her as a typical housewife and Mom who dearly loved her family.

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     I don't agree that she sabotaged her career or for that matter, whether she even cared about furthering her career. She was probably very unhappy with Jolson and finally had enough and divorced him. She had some temporary happiness when she and Jolson adopted a baby boy. I believe after her divorce she was looking to find a nice man not connected with the film industry and settle down. And that's exactly what she did. From what I read and heard she had a very happy married life. She had her career and she had a happy blissful marriage and family. So I'm sure she was content.

     Years ago TCM ran a documentary on her and in it her daughter speaks while they show home movies of her with her family. Her daughter mentioned that her mother never mentioned that she was an actress and that none of her brothers or sisters even knew about her film career until many years later.

She never talked about it. The only hint they ever had was when the radio would be on and Ruby would start to dance to the music on the radio (a tap dance). Otherwise, her daughter described her as a typical housewife and Mom who dearly loved her family.

Great post midnight. I love the double-life (in a good way) some of these stars had. Sounds like Ruby was a good mom.

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     I know I'm being "partial" because I liked Ruby but I think she had a certain "something" that fit into the films she was in. Most of her films had her as the nice, shy, naïve, sweet girl, the kind of gal a guy would want to bring home to meet his parents and sit down to Sunday dinner. She proved a contrast

to the other film actresses such as Joan Blondell who were saucy, sassy and who had "been around the block" so to speak.

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